RUTLAND — Harry Hambone led the race through turn three, but Shakin’ Bacon was coming in right behind him. As they entered the final straightaway, Shakin’ took the inside and the two approached the finish line side-by-side. Shakin’ was first to cross the finish line.
Racing, particularly of the pig variety, is in Wayne Rosaire’s blood.
Rosaire started his company, Rosaire’s Royal Racers, in 1991 and has been coming to the Vermont State Fair for years.
Rosaire got his start in 1988 after joining swine racers Bob and Dave Hale of Missouri. After a death caused the company to close, Rosaire made pig racing a family event.
“I’m playing a lot of the same fairs I used to in the ’80s for the Hales, and a lot of new ones as well,” he said.
The Rosaires are based in Florida, but frequently travel in the RV which houses both the pigs and the family. Many of the children were home-schooled aboard the “Porcine Palace.”
“I bring my entire family on the road with me,” said Rosaire.
Rosaire and his eldest daughter, Pamela, are on the road 10 months out of the year, he said. The crew travels to county and state fairs throughout the country, as well as performing at private parties.
“I stay home for New Year’s and Christmas ’cause of the children, but come the 2nd or 3rd of January, we’re out,” he said. “Then we’ll stay out and hopefully make it home for Thanksgiving.”
For Rosaire, sacrificing time away from home is worth it.
“What I love about it is the show is very successful, even after working all the same fairs,” he said. “People come out stronger now than they ever did in the past.”
Rosaire travels with not only his biological family, but also 15 to 20 of his swine. He begins training the pigs at two weeks old to get them familiar with humans. Unlike many believe, Rosaire said the animals are “much smarter than dogs”
“They’re very smart and as soon as you hurt one of them, even if it’s by accident, they don’t want anything to do with you,” he said.
That’s why Rosaire uses a “bait and reward” system. They introduce the pigs to crème-filled “cookies,” similar to Oreos, which provide them motivation to race around the track. At the beginning, each pig gets a cookie but eventually, only the fastest one will receive the treat, according to Rosaire.
Despite the animals’ intelligence, some are more difficult than others.
“If they can push you around and get away with it a couple times, before you know it they’re chewing your feet off,” he said.
And according to Rosaire, he doesn’t play favorites.
“I like them all. No real favorites, really,” he said, laughing. “There’s some of them I might dislike a little more than others.”
Rosaire typically brings three different pig varieties to each race, but that has changed along with many other things over the years. His RV can hold up to 35 pigs, but rarely sees that many at one time. Rosaire says this is due to the higher cost of feed and traveling.
“We had to cut back on the mileage,” he said. “I haven’t seen 30 pigs for about 10 years.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the pigs’ appearances at the Vermont State Fair. His performances in Rutland are “by far the most fun time of the season,” according to Rosaire.
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